10 People-Related Tips for ITSM Success

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In my previous article, I wrote about how the “ABC of IT” (the attitude, behavior, and culture issues), or the “people aspects,” is a critical factor in IT success (or failure), especially in IT service management (ITSM) improvement initiatives. Now in this article, I’m covering the things that can help IT organizations to traverse the people-related issues and barriers to success – sharing a list of 10 critical success factors, crafted as tips, for dealing with the ABC of IT.

These 10 tips are sneakily “borrowed” from the “ABC of ICT – An Introduction to the Attitude, Behavior and Culture of ICT” book written by my colleague Jan Schilt and myself. Please read on to find out how to improve your organization’s ITSM through better people decisions and actions.

1. Be (people) inclusive in design

Don’t create IT services and support mechanisms in an IT-focused ivory tower. Instead involve representatives from all of the teams that will be affected across IT and the wider business. Bringing people together in face-to-face meetings, workshops, forums, and potentially simulations (hey, it’s what we do) to stimulate discussion and involvement, and to help address the potential for resistance (to change).

Resistance to change is a proven thing – and you will encounter it whether you believe this or not. And bringing people together will help to make it visible, helps to create user buy-in (on various levels), and encourage people – however they’re involved in the outcomes of the change(s) – to adapt their traditional ways of working.

2. Make time for, and spend time with, your customers

It’s important to understand how your customers/end users use your services. If you’re an internal IT organization, then this is spending more time with your business colleagues.

For example, periodically encouraging IT staff to spend time shadowing people or even working “in the business” (but obviously they’re already in the business). Even if this is just for a day. Or creating other formal, and informal, opportunities to engage with business colleagues – through which to actively identify (or confirm) “true” business needs. Plus, ways in which to improve business and IT working methods (and the respective levels of trust).

Ultimately, it’s about showing that we (in IT): understand what we are there for, show that we care, and demonstrate that we’re doing something to improve the value created via IT.

3. Verify business needs before proposing, and undertaking, ITSM changes

Make ITSM about business success. Thus, always ensure that business needs drive ITSM improvement activities (and where appropriate the business cases to gain buy-in and approval).

Make better business outcomes explicit in all ITSM improvement proposals. It’s easy to accomplish when you look at ITSM from the customer, end user, and business perspectives.

Also consider hiring more people from other lines of business to bring greater business perspective to the IT organization. For instance, moving business analysts into IT.

4. Ensure that people working IT understand business value and how they help create it

People working in IT, and ITSM, need to know what “success” is in a business context and how it should be demonstrated. In the context of ITSM, people need to know WHY there’s an ITSM or ITIL-based improvement initiative. And this needs to be in the context of what the organization needs to achieve.

And it’s not a one-time thing. People need to be repeatedly reminded of the “whys.”

5. Look beyond exams and certifications

For too long people have seen exam success as a statement of job suitability. Whereas the qualifications might be merely evidence of an exam-passing capability.

Instead, look for a demonstration of the required technical and people capabilities when hiring people for ITSM roles. Look for previous, quantifiable successes. Look for an aptitude for development and making a difference post-exam.

In particular, when hiring for relevant “expertise,” ask: “How would you deal with the ABC issues often encountered with ITSM improvement?”

6. Get executive buy-in and commitment

Not all people issues relate to those who fulfill “doing” ITSM roles. There is also a need to address issues related to senior management – in particular, the need to garner executive commitment from both the business and IT.

Without a demonstrated commitment, operational and culture change will fail. This commitment includes:

  • Leading by example
  • Walking the talk
  • Confronting undesirable behavior
  • Backing, communicating, and reinforcing goals and aims, and
  • Rewarding desirable behavior.

7. Market what IT can do for the business

Speak in user and customer language, market what IT can do and how it contributes to business success. Importantly, communicate outcomes and results not “ITIL-compliance.” Tie communications in to business priorities and goals for maximum impact and continue to communicate and re-communicate in these terms.

8. Create business buy-in through quantification

Change stakeholder attitudes and gain buy-in through the explanation of relevant impact, consequences, risks, and facts and figures. Focus on “value, outcomes, costs, and risks” when describing new or changed services as well as demonstrating the improvements to the “customer experience.”

9. Take a holistic approach

When adopting ITIL or any other ITSM approach, ensure that you balance people, process, product, and partner capabilities in the pursuit of a fifth “P” – performance.

10. Never stop seeking to improve

Be aware that it takes time and effort to improve, and that this improvement is a journey not a destination. I have yet to see an organization that has implemented a single ITSM process from level zero to optimum maturity in one go. Importantly, embed the concept of: “improving your work is your work” into your culture.

So, that’s 10 tips for improving the people-aspects of ITSM change and ongoing IT service delivery and support. How much of this are you doing? Or what do you wish that you had done? Please share your successes and war stories in the comments below.

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Paul Wilkinson
Director & Owner at

Paul Wilkinson has been involved in the IT industry for more than 25 years and has a broad background in IT operations, IT management, and product innovation and development. He was project team lead in the original BITE (Business & IT Excellence) process modeling of ITIL, an ITIL V2 author, and member of the ITIL V3 advisory group.

He is co-owner of GamingWorks and co-developer of a range of business simulations focusing on IT service management, project management, business process management, business and IT alignment, alliance management and co-author and developer of the ABC of ICT products and publications.

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